On June 20th 2007, Congress passed legislation that provided veterans with the option of hiring an attorney earlier in the claims process if their disability claim was denied by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Because both the application and appeals processes can be complex, it’s often beneficial for veterans to retain a lawyer to help them through both.
However, a veteran doesn’t have to hire a lawyer. There are other options including a claims representative and a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). Some veterans may be inclined to obtain the services of a VSO rep because the services are free; but there are some important factors to consider when making your decision.
Disadvantages of Using a VSO Representative for Your Veterans’ Disability Claim
A VSO helps veterans apply for and submit their disability claims to the VA. Many veterans believe they must use a VSO rep if they need help with a denied claim; however, here are some factors to consider when deciding if a VSO rep is your best choice:
- If you choose to use a VSO, you must sign over a limited Power of Attorney (POA) to the parent organization of the VSO—allowing it access to all medical and military records in order to act on your behalf.
- Some VSOs act as independent operators with little or no supervision to ensure proper performance.
- You may not know for sure that your VSO has submitted the correct documentation to the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) or done so in a timely manner.
- There is no evidence of a nationwide standard for who can become a VSO or how that person will conduct business. Additionally, the VA has not established or enforced a national standard of competency for VSOs, and the requirements to be considered a VSO differ greatly—your VSO may have attended college and obtained an advanced degree or federal or state certification; or he may be a volunteer with little training, skills, or education.
- Each VSO may have at least 1,000 claims at any one time. If your claim is complex or has gone into the appeals process, you may not get the attention or support you need.